DOT bill nixed in committee

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Despite an overwhelming vote of approval in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Cam Ward’s DOT reform bill failed to even make it up for vote in the Senate.

After passing the House of Representatives with a 93-to-1 vote of approval, Ward’s bill failed to make it out of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week.

Committee members killed the bill With a 5-to-4 vote against.

Ward said Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, helped influence other legislators to oppose the bill. Bedford is chairman of the Finance and Taxation General Fund, which sets the Senate budget.

&uot;Sen. Bedford has pretty much buried my version,&uot; Ward said.

Ward said he felt worse since the bill didn’t even make it to the full Senate for a vote, despite overwhelming support in the House.

&uot;I felt like it was kind of a sad indictment that it passed with such an overwhelming majority, then gets denied in a Senate committee,&uot; he said.

Ward, R-Alabaster, sponsored a bill to reform the state Department of Transportation in an effort to gather more road money for Shelby County. Ward told legislators earlier this legislative session that Shelby County does not get a fair return on the number of dollars it sends to the DOT each year.

According to Ward, the county received about $4 million in road projects last year, after sending more than $12 million to the state in gas taxes.

Ward’s proposal called for a seven-member commission, with one member representing each Congressional district. The state transportation director would be appointed by a committee, under the proposal.

Ward said some legislators were reluctant to sacrifice their influence over the state DOT.

&uot;That’s what you’re up against. They don’t want to give up that power,&uot; Ward said.

Gov. Bob Riley proposed creating an independent commission to make transportation decisions during his 2002 campaign. Previous attempts to pass similar bills never made it out of the House of Representatives, Ward said.

Now, DOT reform in the state is up to Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals. Denton has proposed a new DOT reform bill with different provisions.

Denton’s bill calls for a system in which certain legislators appoint seven committee members, with the Governor makes the remaining two.

Ward opposes parts of the proposal.

&uot;It doesn’t remove the politics of it,&uot; he said.

Denton and Bedford did not return repeated calls